5 January 2003 2003 nian 1 yue 5 hao

Journal: Visa

The university in China offered me a position after viewing my CV. Well, actually the job is conditional upon an interview and teaching demo once I arrive in the country, but I'm viewing this as more a formality than anything else. After all, they can't just snap their fingers and get another foreign teacher. And even a young, inexperienced white teacher is more glamourous than a local English teacher. Of course that isn't very fair, but I can sympathise; all my Chinese teachers have been Chinese, and I would probably feel a little ripped off if it was otherwise (although in fact one of them was from Hong Kong, so Mandarin wasn't her first language anyway).

Getting a foreign teacher into the country is almost as difficult as engaging one in the first place, I discovered. After the initial job offer, the paper chasing began in earnest. Although I hadn't sent any references with my CV, Maggie (my contact at the university's Foreign Affairs Office) now needed two letters of reference and the results of a physical examination in order to apply to the State Bureau of Foreign Experts.

I picked up a Physical Examination Record for Foreigners form from the Chinese consulate, which among other things required a chest X-ray, and ECG, and a blood test. Maggie stressed that I should have the examination done at a large public hospital, but Australian hospitals don't work like Chinese hospitals, and won't give you even the tiniest needle-prick without a referral from a GP. I visited a GP, and she convinced me to let her perform the examination. Luckily she was a pragmatist, and since she sometimes worked shifts at a hospital she promised to look for a stamp next time she was there. I was extremely pleased, since I have heard that an official-looking stamp can get you a long way through Chinese red tape.

Unfortunately, she looked for a stamp but found nothing appropriate.

I sent all the documents away, and when Maggie received them she began arranging my official letter of invitation. It was already December, so I decided it was time to book a plane ticket. The university is going to reimburse me for the cost, so I got a quote from a travel agent and forwarded it to Maggie for confirmation. A week went by and there was no reply. And by now, three weeks had passed since my documents had arrived on Maggie's desk and there was still no news on my invitation letter. I was getting a little anxious. Perhaps the airfare was too much, after all in Chinese currency it was equivalent to over three months of the salary I was expecting to receive (including overnight accommodation at a cheap Hong Kong hotel).

But I tried to be patient, and on the 2nd of January the invitation finally arrived by fax. Maggie emailed to say that I should just book the plane ticket and keep the receipt. Things were back on track again.

So, I took my visa application form, photo, passport, authorisation from the State Bureau of Foreign Experts, authorisation from the provincial authorities, and medical report to the Chinese consulate. They said I could pick up the visa after three working days. I wasn't content until I finally held it in my hands.

Postscript: I phoned the PSB in Dalian, and it's just as I feared. Without the endorsement of a hospital on my physical examination record, I'll have to repeat the whole thing in China. So I spent half a day running between various clinics for no reason.

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